The Standard April 21, 2022
On a slightly warm, sunny day this April it would be hard to walk outside and fail to notice the azaleas and daffodils blooming their bright pinks and yellows, the clematis creeping up mailbox posts or railings and the dogwood trees spreading their flowering shade above. Hopefulness is in the air. The deer have not yet gotten to the hosta. Reese’s peanut butter eggs have not quite sold out of the stores. More importantly, hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 have plummeted. Things in the United States seem to be getting back to “normal.” Weddings and anniversary celebrations are looking more like they did pre-pandemic, as should graduation festivities. As wonderful as all of these hopeful things are, none can compare to the good news of Easter.
“After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, wo was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.’ So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. ‘Greetings,’ he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” (Matthew 28:1-10)
The empty tomb has repercussions far beyond that morning on the third day after Jesus’ crucifixion. God’s victory over sin and death shatters the grasp they had on us. Of course, the death of our loved ones is excruciating for us who remain, but not so for those who die as followers of Christ. Believing the promise of heaven lessens the sting of death, as the apostle Paul describes. “I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed – in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ ‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 1:50-57)
In the 1800s Episcopal clergyman Phillips Brooks put it so beautifully. “Tomb, thou shalt not hold Him longer; Death is strong, but Life is stronger, Stronger than the dark, the light, Stronger than the wrong, the right, Faith and Hope triumphant say, Christ will rise on Easter Day.”